Definition of litany in US English:



  • 1A series of petitions for use in church services or processions, usually recited by the clergy and responded to in a recurring formula by the people.

    • ‘Its structural references are historical - to the Greek chorus articulating emotionally freighted communal reactions, and to the polyphonic litanies and choral works of medieval Christian churches.’
    • ‘The rite involves incense, candles, litanies and novenas, and set hymns, often in Latin.’
    • ‘Many times in my life, I have heard Perpetua and Felicity mentioned in litanies of saints and prayers of the Church.’
    • ‘Gone are the days when the community of Sisters which at times numbered about twenty were in their pews at 6.30 am reciting their prayers and litanies.’
    • ‘Each of the first four sections includes prayers, litanies, and many other types of texts.’
    • ‘Throughout the 1770s, nevertheless, dramatic works took second place to liturgical demands, including mass settings of increasing intensity, litanies, vespers, and a series of church sonatas.’
    • ‘For many who are, like Peter, in the course of progressive dementia, litanies, prayers, and hymns often have a deep emotional significance.’
    • ‘And as the shadows deepen I light my candles and abjure the cold evening by gripping the picture and mouthing a litany of His name.’
    • ‘The second type is worship without the sacraments that incorporates a more ‘contemporary’ style of litanies, music, prayers, and readings.’
    • ‘One day just before Easter, we joined a procession which wound along singing litanies, in and out of four churches, before finishing at Santa Chiara, a sort of liturgical pub crawl.’
    • ‘The book concludes with some litanies in honor of Mary.’
    • ‘In 1545 he wrote a litany that is still used in the church.’
    • ‘Diviners started to include seven Psalms with litanies and prayers.’
    • ‘Display the worship prayers and litanies on the screen in a typeface large enough to be seen from the back of the worship space.’
    • ‘So out went audible responses, the minister's surplice and the litany.’
    • ‘We went then from the cold church in solemn procession, singing litanies into the thin air.’
    prayer, invocation, petition, supplication, devotion, entreaty
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    1. 1.1 A tedious recital or repetitive series.
      ‘a litany of complaints’
      • ‘Ugh, I just can't bear to sit through a litany of her illnesses and complaints and all of that right now.’
      • ‘It would have been easy, however, for them to dump out a litany of complaints and call it a day.’
      • ‘Oh yes, I trotted out the whole litany of familiar negatives.’
      • ‘Most kitchen designers hear this litany of complaints at least once a week.’
      • ‘His Columbia University office was ransacked and he was subject to a seemingly endless litany of lies about his character.’
      • ‘A friend who is simply willing to listen to someone's litany of woes may save a life.’
      • ‘The gizmo had no sense of how long each step might take, and continued its litany of orders while the user would likely still be occupied with a previous task.’
      • ‘I don't want to hear your litany of complaints.’
      • ‘Sorry, but I don't have any more time to address your litany of other complaints.’
      • ‘For twenty minutes my hostess listed the now familiar litany of complaints.’
      • ‘A similar litany of complaints might have come from any United follower in the street, which is why fan endorsement has been nearly unanimous.’
      • ‘Early chapters review the usual tiresome litany of depressing problems caused by traditional approaches to building and other human endeavors.’
      • ‘Professor Jones recites the grim litany of human tragedies that have plagued our planet over the last 100 years.’
      • ‘The litany continues for well over three hundred pages, but there is little point in following it further.’
      • ‘He's forced to watch a videotape of her reading off a litany of complaints about their dysfunctional marriage.’
      • ‘As he recites this depressing litany, there is steel in his voice.’
      • ‘But the litany of complaints from Government officials cannot be taken up by anyone other than themselves.’
      • ‘Nothing is more depressing than a never-ending litany of vandalism, muggings and burglaries.’
      • ‘I no longer have time for your garbled emails, and now your litany of lies.’
      • ‘There is a whole litany of character traits like this in all of us.’
      recital, recitation, repetition, enumeration, account, refrain
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Middle English: from Old French letanie, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek litaneia ‘prayer’, from litē ‘supplication’.